10 Years of Digital Chest Drainage: Medela’s Milestones Show How State-Of-The-Art Technology Has Transformed Today’s Post-Operative Patient Care

BAAR, Switzerland , May 3, 2018 /PRNewswire/ —

From Heber-principle to digital systems, thoracic surgery has significantly changed and improved over the course of time – so has chest drainage. Ten years ago, chest drainage therapy as we knew it was completely overhauled with the introduction of digital drainage systems. An onboard motor creating vacuum in a closed system consisting of tubings and fluid collection container opened a whole new way of how to manage chest drainage patients. In addition to the option to mobilize all patients with a chest drain, digital drainage systems also allowed the general reduction of complications  [1]. These systems monitor the patient and alert if the measured data are out of range. Due to the digital control of the negative pressure, the system is able to objectively quantify the presence of parenchymal leakage.

Based on science and innovative research, Medela has continuously proven to be the technology leader in this area. In 2007, Thopaz™ was introduced as the first truly portable, digital drainage system. In 2014, Thopaz+was launched, the first digital drainage monitoring system with electronic measurement of air-leak and drained fluid. Vast amounts of clinical and global experience show how 10 years of digital drainage have truly impacted the medical field:

  • 1’000’000 patients on chest drains worldwide have experienced the benefits of Medela’s digital systems in the past 10 years
  • Patients benefit from a significantly shorter chest tube duration (study results show 1.1 days shorter chest tube placement on average with Thopaz™) [2]
  • Thopaz + is cost saving compared with conventional chest drains for people who need drainage after a pulmonary resection or because of a collapsed lung. Healthcare systems and hospitals benefit from shorter length of hospital stay. NICE resource impact assessment concluded that, at a national level, adopting Thopaz + is expected to save around GBP 8.5 million per year in England (a study from Italy showed EUR 751 saved per patient with Thopaz™) [3] [4]

Medela Healthcare is working with various leading clinicians, researchers and healthcare institutions to bring innovation in thoracic surgery to hospitals and to help revolutionize post-operative patient care. Through a publication matrix, the latest research findings in the field of modern chest drainage systems can be easily filtered through a number of keywords on the Medela website.

Marcel Hohl, Vice President of Global Marketing at Medela Healthcare, says: “We are very proud to announce the 10-year anniversary of digital chest drainage. During these past 10 years, thoracic drainage research has become a key element of our success and, with the help of our partners; we have reached many milestones that are proof to us that this innovation is here to stay. The previous launches of Thopaz™ and Thopaz+ only mark the beginning of this exciting journey. Medela takes great effort to take a modern role in medicine exploring the power of data to eventually allow for better health profiles and predictive models for patient with a chest drain.”


Frank Detterbeck, Professor of Surgery, Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Yale University and Associate Director of the Yale Cancer Center: “Scientific data from 381 patients proving shorter duration of chest tube placement, shorter hospital stays and a higher patient satisfaction for digital drainage compared to traditional drainage systems was remarkable for me.In practice, Thopaz™ allows complete patient mobility and independence while the chest drain is still in situ, thereby realizing the full potential of the minimally invasive surgery we are performing.”

Konstantinos Papagiannopoulos, MMED Thorax MD at St. James’ University Hospital: “I have collaborated with Medela since 2007 and became actively involved in modifications and improvements of their suction and drainage portable pumps. We quickly embraced the benefits of a technologically advanced device like Thopaz™. Our patients became extremely satisfied. They are now free, mobile and experience modern treatment with a modern device. They feel safe and comfortable with our fast-tracked discharge service facilitated by data recorded from the Thopaz™ electronic suction pump.”

Thomas Kiefer, MD, Chief of Thoracic Surgery, Lungenzentrum Bodensee: “Early digital systems were flawed in various ways, but the introduction of Thopaz™ gave us a product with every quality that we had been looking for. We gradually understood the predictive value of the digital air leak readings, allowing earlier, effective interventions for air leak post-operatively, which in turn further minimized the harm of prolonged air leakage. Thopaz™ has also proven to deliver highly reliable and effective outcome measurements for our clinical research into intra- and post-operative air leak interventions. Thus, we have redesigned our chest drain management protocols to take advantage of the benefits of digital drainage.”

Phillip Antippa, MBBS FRACS, Head, Thoracic Surgical Services, The Royal Melbourne Hospital: “After seeing Thopaz™ hard at work whilst on Sabbatical Leave in the U.K., I was very keen to introduce this technology to –Australia and New Zealand. Not having any experience with electronic drainage systems, our institution was reluctant at first and we conducted a feasibility study confirming the international results that drain tubes could be removed at least a day earlier. This quickly led to the seamless implementation of Thopaz™ into our service and into other parts of our Hospital. Our surgeons easily adopted its use and we have continued to collect data from Thopaz™. Our ongoing research projects in close collaboration with Thopaz™ design engineers and scientists will continue to cement Thopaz™ as an important sophisticated clinical diagnostic and therapeutic tool.

The greatest enthusiasm however has come from our nursing staff. After a simple education process, Thopaz™ has become an integral part of Thoracic Surgical management for our patients. It has definitely made patient care easier and our staff feels more engaged – the only complaints we receive is when a patient returns to the ward with an analogue system!

Many of our patients understand the benefits of Thopaz™. Certainly they are pleased that they are receiving best possible care and enjoy the freedom that the device allows.”

About Medela

Medela concentrates on two business units: “Human Milk”, with basic research recognised globally and leading in the development and manufacture of breastfeeding products and solutions, and “Healthcare”, engineering and manufacturing highly innovative medical vacuum technology solutions. In 2007, Medela Healthcare launched the Thopaz™ cardiothoracic drainage system, followed by the launch of Thopaz + in 2014. Follow
this link to screen all the research studies according to keywords.


  1. Read Miller, DL. et al., Digital Drainage System Reduces Hospitalization After Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery Lung Resection. Ann Thorac Surg. 2016 Sep;102(3):955-961, Leo, F. et al., Ann Thorac Surg. 2013 Oct;96(4):1234-9
  2. Pompili, C. et al., 2014: Multicenter International Randomized Comparison of Objective and Subjective Outcomes Between Electronic and Traditional Chest Drainage Systems. Ann Thorac Surg. 98: 490-497.
  3. NICE Guidance MTG37: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/MTG37
  4. Pompili, C. et al., 2011 Nov: Impact of the learning curve in the use of a novel electronic chest drainage system after pulmonary lobectomy: a case-matched analysis on the duration of chest tube usage. Interact Thorac Surg. 13(5): 490-3
  5. Cerfolio, R.J. & Bryant, A.S., 2009: The quantification of postoperative air leaks. Multimed Man Cardiothorac Surg.: 1(409).
  6. Brunelli, A. et al., 2011: Consensus definitions to promote an evidence-based approach to management of the pleural space.
    A collaborative proposal by ESTS, AATS, STS, and GTSC. Eur J Cardiothorac Surg.: 40(2):291-7.
  7. Read https://www.medela.co.uk/healthcare/news-events/news/medela-wins-bbh-award
  8. Barozzi, L. et al., 2015: Do we still need wall suction for chest drainage? J Cardiovascular Surgery. 2015;56(Supp.1)102.

Media Contact: 


Burson-Marsteller: daniela.suter@bm.com

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